The bursary fund will become part of the College’s permanent financial support offeringPUNTING CAMBRIDGE/FLICKR

St John’s College has launched a new ‘Free Places’ bursary program which will offer over £17,000 to as many as 40 of its undergraduate students each year. This sum will cover recipients’ tuition fees, accommodation costs, and living expenses.

This program will be aimed at students whose families have a median income that is 60% below the national average.

The first of its kind, St John’s called this bursary program “the most generous in the country’”, and will be made available from 2023.

Philanthropists have pledged £14M out of the £24M necessary for the program to run ‘for perpetuity’, St John’s Master Heather Hancock declared. £3M have already been donated, with £11M to be donated in subsequent years.

The 40 students that this bursary will support each year will all graduate debt-free. St John’s aims to combat the “debt barrier” through the scheme: “this debt burden is a considerable barrier to students from [lower income] backgrounds applying, and even if they do apply and win a place, the debt detrimentally affects their university experience in a number of ways, creating anxiety and discouraging them from participating in sports or societies.”

“These students also feel pressured to return home during the vacations to minimise costs instead of pursuing valuable work experience, research and learning opportunities like many of their peers.”

Heather Hancock also said: “For more than 500 years, St John’s College has had an unwavering commitment to provide financial support for students in need. We are determined to sustain this legacy. Removing serious financial barriers for prospective students is a powerful signal that Cambridge really is for everyone.”

“It is still true that high-potential pupils from low-income families, and young people leaving care, are deciding against university because of the prospect of significant debt,” Hancock continued. “They worry about their future employability and how they’ll ever be free of an unimaginable financial millstone from attending university.”

The Free Places program was launched with an initial £14 million contribution to the College’s fundraising campaign. Hancock thanked the “extraordinary generosity” of the pledge, which contributes over half of “the £25 million we need to deliver this student support in perpetuity.”


Mountain View

Institute of Continuing Education introduces new bursary for postgraduates

The Free Places fund is part of the College’s endowment profile: from its introduction, it will be an ongoing feature of the financial support offered to undergraduates at St John's.

In their announcement, the College emphasised their historic commitment to ensuring intake from northern counties and those in “financial need”, according to the will of its founder, Lady Margaret Beaufort. The College has appointed an academic whose role will be “to forge links with schools in the north of England to support students who may never have previously contemplated applying to Cambridge.”

Hancock, who attended a northern comprehensive school, said: “We know that removing the financial hurdles is essential, but not enough to achieve our goal. So, alongside the Free Places campaign we will also offer targeted practical support from Year 10 through to Year 13 to ensure pupils capable of studying at Cambridge are given the best chance of reaching the rigorous academic standards needed.

“We want to do this by building dedicated long-term relationships in target areas, specifically the north of England, and by offering mentoring and support from current and past students and our academics.”